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YES; thank my stars! as early as I knew
5 As who knows Sappho, smiles at other whores.
I grant that poetry's a crying sin; It brought (no doubt) th' excise and army in: Catch'd like the plague, or love, the Lord knows how, But that the cure is starving, all allow.
10 Yet like the papist’s, is the poet's state, Poor and disarm’d, and hardly worth your hate!
Here a lean bard, whose wit could never give
15 So prompts, and saves a rogue who cannot read.
that he even refused the Earl of Somerset, his favourite, the request he earnestly made, of giving Donne an office in the council. In the entertaining account of that conversation, which Ben Jonson is said to have held with Mr. Drummond, of Hawthornden, in Scotland, in the year 1619, containing his judgments of the English Poets, he speaks thus of Donne, who was his intimate friend, and had frequently addressed him in various
poems : “ Donne was originally a poet ; his grandfather, on the mother's side, was Heywood the epigrammatist ; but for not being understood, he would perish. He esteemed him the first poet in the world for some things; his Verses of the Lost Ochadine, he had by heart; and that passage of the Calm,' that dust and feather did not stir, all was so quiet.'” He affirmed, that Donne wrote all his best pieces before he was twentyfive years of
age. Donne was one of our Poets who wrote elegantly in Latin ; as did Ben Jonson, Cowley, Milton, Addison, and Gray. The private character of Donne, the inconvenience he underwent on account of his early marriage, and his remarkable sensibility of temper, render him very amiable. Warton.
As in some organs, puppits dance above,
But he is worst, who beggarly doth chaw
to out-usure Jews.
But these punish themselves. The insolence
Ver. 38. Irishmen out-swear ;] The original says,
“out-swear the Letanie,” improved by the Imitator into a just stroke of satire. Dr. Donne's is a low allusion to a licentious quibble used at that time by the enemies of the English Liturgy: who disliking the frequent invocations in the Letanie, called them the taking God's name in vain, which is the scripture periphrasis for swearing.-Warburton.
Ver. 43. Of whose strange crimes] Such as Sanchez de Matrimonio has minutely enumerated and described. Such Canonists deserved this animadversion. In Pascal's fine Provincial Letters are also some strange and striking examples.-Warlon.
Thus as the pipes of some carved organ move,
These write to Lords, some mean reward to get, 25 As needy beggars sing at doors for meat. Those write because all write, and so have still Excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
Wretched indeed! but far more wretched yet Is he who makes his meal on others' wit:
30 'Tis changed, no doubt, from what it was before, His rank digestion makes it wit no more: Sense, past through him, no longer is the same; For food digested takes another name.
I pass o'er all those confessors and martyrs 35 Who live like S-tt-n, or who die like Chartres, Out-cant old Esdras, or out-drink his heir, Out-usure Jews, or Irishmen out-swear; Wicked as pages, who in early years Act sins which Prisca's confessor scarce hears. 40 Even those I pardon, for whose sinful sake Schoolmen new tenements in Hell must make ; Of whose strange crimes no canonist can tell In what Commandment's large contents they dwell.
One, one man only breeds my just offence; 45 Whom crimes gave wealth, and wealth gave impudence:
Ver. 44. In what Commandment's large contents they dwell.] The original is more humorous :
" In which Commandment's large receit they dwell.” As if the Ten Commandments were so wide, as to stand ready to receive every thing within them, that either the law of nature, or the Gospels, enjoins. A just ridicule on those practical commentators, as they are called, who include all moral and religious duties within the Decalogue. Whereas
Whom time (which rots all, and makes botches pox,
Words, words which would tear
their true original sense is much more confined ; being a short summary of moral duty fitted for a single people, upon a particular occasion, and to serve temporary ends.-Warburton.
Ver. 48. makes a calf an ox,] An unaccountable blunder in our author. As if an ox was in his natural state.- Warton.
Ver. 61. Language, which Boreas~] The original has here a very fine stroke of satire :
“ Than when winds in our ruin'd abbyes roar." The frauds with which that work (so necessary for the welfare both of religion and the state) was begun ; the rapine with which it was carried on; and the dissoluteness in which the plunder arising from it was wasted, had scandalized all sober men ; and disposed some, even of the best Protestants, to wish, that some part of that immense wealth, arising from the suppression of the monasteries, had been reserved for charity, hospitality, and even for the service of religion.—Warburton.
Ver. 74. For not in chariots Peter) Pope might have applied the words of Horace to this eternal Peter, with as much propriety as he did to his friend Bolingbroke :
Primâ dicte mihi, summâ dicende camæna !
Time, that at last matures a clap to pox,
55 With rhymes of this per cent. and that per year ? Or court a wife, spread out his wily parts, Like nets, or lime twigs, for rich widows' hearts; Call himself barrister to every wench, And woo in language of the Pleas and Bench? 60 Language, which Boreas might to Auster hold, More rough than forty Germans when they scold.
Cursed be the wretch, so venal and so vain: Paltry and proud, as drabs in Drury-lane. 'Tis such a bounty as was never known,
65 If PETER deigns to help you to your own : What thanks, what praise, if Peter but supplies ! And what a solemn face, if he denies ! Grave, as when prisoners shake the head and swear 'Twas only suretyship that brought them there. 70 His office keeps your parchment fates entire, He starves with cold to save them from the fire; For you
he walks the streets through rain or dust, For not in chariots Peter puts his trust; For you he sweats and labours at the laws,
75 Takes God to witness he affects your cause, And lies to every Lord, in every thing, Like a king's favourite-or like a king.
Ver. 78. Like a king's favourite] A line from the original, as also line 60 ; which shows that Donne, if he had properly attended to it, could have written harmoniously. Warton.